Historic Interpretation of Swan Lake

April 20, 2015
Editor: Kiki Liu

Chinese and US dancers will raise the curtain of this year's Meet in Beijing Arts Festival with the classic ballet on April 23.[China Daily]

This year's Meet in Beijing Arts Festival is all set to open with a historic interpretation of Swan Lake.

National Ballet of China, American Ballet Theater and Boston Ballet are working in a collaboration for the first time to present Swan Lake, choreographed by legendary Russian prima ballerina Natalia Makarova.

At the opening performance for the 15th Meet in Beijing Arts Festival, the country's first major art festival, principal dancer Isabella Boylston from the American Ballet Theater and principal dancer Paulo Arrais from the Boston Ballet will share the stage with Chinese ballet dancers Ma Xiaodong and Wang Ye at the National Center for the Performing Arts on April 23 and 24.

"Swan Lake is regarded as one of the greatest works in the art of ballet. It was the first Western classical ballet performed in China. Makarova's version of Swan Lake is very special. Her production is closer to Tchaikovsky's music and his feeling of the story," says Feng Ying, a veteran ballerina and the president of National Ballet of China.

In 2007, National Ballet of China invited Makarova, who is 75 now, to Beijing to cooperate with Chinese dancers on a new take on Tchaikovsky's classic tale. Since then, Makarova's version of Swan Lake has become one of its most popular performances.

"China's ballet dancers have been influenced by Russian ballet for years. Makarova gave us a fresh perspective on ballet by freeing dancers from the stereotyped gestures and movements of the swan," Feng says.

Principal dancer Ma has been performing Makarova's Swan Lake since he joined the National Ballet of China in 2009. He will perform with Boylston on April 23.

"Hopefully my interpretation has evolved and matured during the past few years. I am looking forward to the communication with American dancers on and off the stage despite the language and cultural barriers," Ma says.

Feng says: "With American ballet dancers, we will offer an exciting show for the audience."

American ballerina Boylston played Odette/Odile in Swan Lake with the American Ballet Theater when she was in Beijing the previous time in 2013. It will be the first time she performs Makarova's version.

"I've worked with Makarova closely and performed her version of La Bayadere many times. Her Swan Lake is quite different from the American Ballet Theater version by artistic director Kevin Mckenzie that I'm very familiar with. So it will be an interesting challenge for me to adapt to a new partner in such a short time," she says in an e-mail interview with China Daily.

"I think there are many aspects of her choreography that express Odette's character very beautifully."

Though she has never worked with Chinese ballet dancers, Boylston, who has been using the DVD to learn the steps, says that she was blown away by "how streamlined and synchronized the corps de ballet looks".

Boylston started to learn ballet at age 3. She always knew she would dance because she loves "the freedom, creativity and musical aspect of it as well as the intense physical challenge". She first performed the role of Odette in 2011, which she describes as "a dream role for any ballerina".

"I'm hoping that the experience will be mutually inspiring for me and the Chinese dancers, and that we can all learn from each other," she says.

If you go

7:30 pm, April 23 and 24. National Center for the Performing Arts, 2 West Chang'an Avenue, Xicheng district, Beijing. 010-6655-0000.

(Source: China Daily)

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